Young Girls' Soccer Team Busy Learning

Published in the September 12, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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In the first week of the season, the fortunes of the Nashoba girls' soccer team changed just like the weather. The cool comfort of Wednesday's 2-0 win at Quabbin was just a memory by Saturday afternoon, as temperatures soared above 90 and the Chieftains fell 2-1 at Wachusett.

For a team that entered the season amid speculation as to how it would respond to the loss of its three top goal scorers and a number of experienced midfielders from last season's Mid-Wach B champions, the opening-week split suggests the jury is still out on that question. Given the team's youth—with 17 freshmen and a number of other players who lack varsity experience—head coach Pam Vaughan expects it may take a while for this year's team to find its identity.

“We're still trying to figure out the puzzle pieces,” Vaughan said. “With so many new kids, we're just trying to teach them the culture of our team. Most of the team is new to the varsity, so the speed of play and the physical intensity aspect is a lot higher than what they've been used to.”

Last season's 15 wins will be a tough act to follow. On the other hand, the graduation of standouts like Kylie Ricker, Kim Rich and Kelly Cozzens (all of whom are now playing collegiate soccer) presents an opportunity for other talented players who have had to wait their turn. Jen Harding, who scored in each of this season's first two games, is a case in point.

“Jen's always had a great game. She's got a really hard shot, and a powerful range. She can shoot from places most people wouldn't shoot from,” Vaughan said. “Unfortunately, the last couple of years she's been behind some really good players. Hopefully now's her time.”

Freshman Courtney Johnson of Stow also scored against Quabbin, suggesting that the team's youth may not necessarily be a handicap.

“We lost a lot of key people from last year, but our attitude is really good,” said senior captain Katherine Polido of Stow, who helped lead a solid defensive effort in both matches along with co-captain Angela Campobasso and Caroline Fraser.

Another stabilizing force on defense is senior goalie Madison Hawkins, who made eight saves in each game. Hawkins recorded eight shutouts last season.

Although the Chieftains allowed two unanswered goals after scoring first on Saturday, they outshot the Mountaineers 20-11 and kept the game within reach.

“There was a lot of back and forth,” Vaughan said. “It could have gone either way.”

This early in the season, with so many unknown variables, the coaching staff is keeping an open mind about the team's potential.

“We lost a lot of kids the year we won the state championship too,” said assistant coach Abby O'Brien, referring to the 2004 team, which lost 11 seniors from the previous season. “As long as they're working hard and we're working hard, anything is possible.”

To be sure, the schedule isn't doing the team any favors. A third straight away game was slated for yesterday evening against perennially powerful Marlboro, which knocked Nashoba out of last year's divisional semi-finals. And Saturday's home opener will feature a Chieftains-Chieftains matchup against Masconomet Regional, last year's Division 1 North champions. That game will start at 1 pm.

In the meantime, the young squad has a lot of learning to do, Vaughan said.

“We still have a long way to go,” she said. “We really need to work on everything. But that's good. It keeps us busy.”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239